As I watch the lives of my loved ones, seeing their emotions, decisions, and experiences weave together to mold them into not only who they are but who they will be, I can’t help but fight the urge to offer what wisdom I have in the form of my observations as well as my life experiences.
I want to fix things. All the things for all my people. It’s just in my nature to be a helper, but I’ve come to realize that I’m not supposed to be the one who is in control.
It’s hard to accept this.
It’s hard to watch from a distance.
It’s hard to not help.
The truth is I won’t necessarily have the right words to offer others because there’s simply too much about life that I don’t understand.
But I know Someone who does.
Jesus is in control. He has a plan for all of us that far exceeds anything we could hope to create.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”Jeremiah 29:11 NIV
God’s plans for others can be seen throughout the entire Bible. One of my favorite examples is the life of Joseph and his family.
I don’t know more than anyone else about Joseph, but I can only imagine that he wanted to live a long and happy life.
I certainly don’t think he ever dreamed about being thrown into a pit, sold, sent to prison, and all the other things he ended up enduring.
In fact, I picture him full of joy one day and then, when his brothers succumbed to their emotional outburst of jealousy mixed with anger, suddenly finding that his life had been completely changed by their rash decision which seemingly cost him everything.
These brothers paid a price, too.
They lived with their lie for decades just like Joseph had to live with their decision for the same amount of time.
And so many other people, like their father, suffered as well.
We know from Genesis 37 that Joseph was his father’s favorite.
We also read about Joseph’s dreams and how they were the cause of the brothers becoming more and more incensed.
It was their father who sent Joseph on the errand that would end up costing all of them so much. So many tiny details that needed to happen to fulfill what would become the ultimate plan years later.
It’s mind-boggling to believe any of this could have been part of a bigger plan, part of something that would one day be life-changing for so many.
I picture Joseph as he was thrown into that pit.
I imagine the look on his face as his brothers sold him for a few coins.
And how devastated he must have been when, after being treated so well in Egypt, things went wrong for him again because of the anger of Potiphar’s wife.
Even in prison, where he was treated quite well thanks to the Lord, his hope for freedom came crashing down around him after the king’s cupbearer and baker forgot all about him after promising to help him.
It seems like one thing after another happened to Joseph. It would be two more years before he was finally out of prison and in charge of all of Egypt.
I’m not sure I could have seen past the pain of my today and the regret of my yesterday if I had been Joseph. I wonder if tomorrow would have even entered my mind during those dark days.
And when I think about those brothers, I can only imagine their regret.
I can only imagine the nights they stayed up, scheming for a way to fix their terrible mistake before admitting the situation was truly out of their hands.
How did they look their father in the eye day after day?
How did they bear hearing his cries as he wondered why this had happened?
How did they manage to live normal lives while constantly witnessing his suffering?
Joseph too must have asked the question “why?” over and over as he lived the life that had been forced on him.
How he must have cried out as his anguish over all he had lost washed over him.
After all, he was the one who had been given those incredible dreams. He must have wondered if he had done something wrong, if maybe he had misunderstood the plan for his life.
As an outside observer, I read this account in the Bible and, as one chapter unfolds into another, I see how God uses everything for His good.
I understand how things have to happen His way even if we don’t understand it at the time.
I clearly am aware that His plan is the only one that matters.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose.”Romans 8:28 NIV
Even after finally realizing that time of suffering was part of a bigger design, I wonder if I would have reacted the way Joseph did when he finally saw his brothers again, so many years after their hatred rose to the place of unfathomable action.
There’s simply no evidence of retaliation from Joseph. In fact, he was overcome with his love for them.
Yes, his reaction was one of compassion toward those who had wanted to kill him but settled on ruining his life.
He didn’t feel the need to make them own up to what they had done.
He didn’t offer them anything but pure forgiveness.
His motives were completely unselfish.
It makes me feel shame at how I react when someone ignores me or talks bad about me or does something else to hurt my feelings.
I so quickly want to know why, want to bring it up to them so they will know that I know what they did.
My selfishness doesn’t bring me peace. It only helps my pain to grow, allowing the pain I initially felt to hurt me all over again.
I constantly remind myself that it’s not about me. It never has been. It never will be.
But I have my moments.
I think Joseph had his moments too. After all, he was a man with the normal range of human emotions.
But, and this is where I can learn from him, he didn’t stay in his emotions.
Instead, he let his circumstances bring out the best in him.
For all of us who have been hurt by someone, we undeniably scoff at the idea of negative circumstances being used as a catalyst for making us better people.
The truth is we can never hope to do this on our own. In fact, there’s only one way to do this.
You have to let go of trying to figure things out on your own.
You have to accept that you will never fully understand why.
You have to turn toward the only One who is in charge.
By recognizing Jesus as the One who allows, decides, and controls everything in your life, you can finally let go.
It turns out that the only way to hold on to Him is to let go of your grasp on your own life.
I think Joseph did that.
I don’t know when, but I think there came a point when he surrendered. What other way could he have had the peace that allowed him to shower his brothers with love?
Above all else, Joseph must have known he was secure in the love of his heavenly Father.
“But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love, to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine. We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield.”Psalm 33:18-20 NIV
I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have Jesus controlling my life even if it means there’s so much that I’ll never understand.
I used to sing a hymn as a child that told me to trust and obey. It turns out there truly is no other way to be happy in Jesus.
I may not understand everything that happens in my life, but I do know that where Jesus wants me is exactly where I want to be.